The Taste of Success

At times success can be a bitter/sweet experience. What happened when it leaves a bad aftertaste?

I work with some very talented people who have accomplished a lot and dream big dreams. Some are deeply satisfied with the results of their efforts and others seem to be continually in a state of restless unease. What is the chief difference between the two groups other than the resultant emotional state?

When I  ask them why they pursued the project or dream in the first place the answer is very revealing. If they are driven by self-centered interests they are in for a big shock.

Those dreams never fully satisfy.

 Dreams That Disappoint

One would think that we would relish the accomplishment of a dream. But the opposite could be true. If the dream is based on ego drives then the person is left wanting after the achievement of the once prized goal.

Essentially the ego is self absorbed through achievements such as career advancement or financial gain. These personal advances may initially produce satisfaction but in the long term can leave the person with empty feelings and a bad aftertaste.

Why is that?

The answer lies deep within the human psyche. We are designed to find fulfillment in serving others and transcending our selves. A NY Times article “Is giving the secret to getting ahead” sets out the research basis for the giving is better argument. “How can I help?” proves to be much more satisfying personally than “Let me show off stuff”.

If after your stellar performance you are left with some of the following feelings or thoughts

“Why does this achievement feel so empty?”

“When is the other shoe going to drop?”

Why am I restless to get to my next goal?”

“How can I keep advancing my brand with more performances like this?”

Then  more likely than not you will have an ego-generated bad taste.

But not every dream has to end with the blahs. Sometimes our achievements are

Dreams that Fulfill

The most satisfying and fulfilling dreams start with the deep desire to serve by improving other peoples lives and in turn, improving one’s world. It also touches peoples’ deepest aspirations for themselves.  And, incidentally as the NY Times article points out, altruism spurs productivity and creativity.

I met an award winning investigative reporter who told me, “My work is not just about winning awards. In fact, it is not just about the story. It is about bringing small and significant changes to people. And sometimes, with luck and lots of hard work, the story leads to a major change in a group or organization.”

Humans are not just motivated by self interest (ego needs) but by self transcending drives which are at the heart of people with a bent towards service.

Here are some of the behaviors of a service-driven person. They

Focus on “us” not “me”

Downplay their status and uplift others

Ask how they can be of service

Are not in it primarily for the awards or recognition

Take themselves with a pinch or salt

Have a humble streak

Altruistic people can be goal oriented and glad for a good outcome. However they are not overly attached to the recognition that comes from success. In fact they are quick to give others recognition.

Questions for Reflection

So, how did you give at the office or at home or in the community?

Why did you decide to give in the first place?

Your answers will shape how your success tastes.

You May also Want to Read

Moving Towards a Soul-Based Life


About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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5 Responses to The Taste of Success

  1. Beautifully said, Cedric. I live in an area where there are many wealthy people and a flurry of social events centered around charities. Do the people who buy big dollar tickets to these events do it for the charity itself or for the buzz they get by seeing and being seen? I suspect it’s a mixture of both..nothing wrong with using your money and celebrity to advance a cause you care about. I would love to be a fly on the wall and see how this plays out in private and if that urge for philanthropy is something that carries over.

    • cedricj says:

      Thanks for your comment Carolyn. I suspect your hunch about it being both showcasing the self as well as genuine altruism in right on the money (excuse the unintended pun).

      However people with money do not have the corner on the ego market. There are many with lesser means and celebrity status that give generously with one intention of being seen and praised.

      Giving without the desire for recognition is a rare thing but some good folks manage to pull it off.

    • cindy says:

      Hello Carolyn,
      I used to think the same as you do. But at my age, I have learned NOT to care AS LONG as they bring the money in .. WITHOUT attachments. Meaning ALL the money goes to whatever the function/event is meant for. I like to call this kind of situation win-win. They, the people, gets the fame and mentioned, the charities get the cash they need. 🙂


  2. Pingback: The Taste of Success | Inspirational Leadership Management and Engagement |

  3. Excellent post Cedric and so true

    Warm regards,


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